Collector of horse figurines likes the animal's majesty and liveliness

Mr Peter Choo has spent more than $100,000 on his collection of horse figurines and art pieces. -- ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG
Mr Peter Choo has spent more than $100,000 on his collection of horse figurines and art pieces. -- ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG
Mr Peter Choo has spent more than $100,000 on his collection of horse figurines and art pieces. -- ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG
Mr Peter Choo has spent more than $100,000 on his collection of horse figurines and art pieces. -- ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

Manager Peter Choo collects horse items as he finds the animal strong and majestic

Semi-retiree Peter Choo's slight stature belies a quiet strength, a trait he shares with the horse, an animal which fascinates him.

The 62-year-old has collected more than 500 horse sculptures, figurines and art pieces that are displayed in every nook and cranny in his five-room apartment in Bendemeer.

Says Mr Choo, a manager at construction company Spedicon Logistics: "I do not keep them for auspicious reasons. I just like to collect them and I'm curious how they are created.

"I'm not interested in other animals. The horse, to me, has a lot of strength in its image, which I like."

He started his collection with a white marble sculpture of a woman riding a horse by Italian sculptor A. Giannelli. It was a gift from a friend of his when he was in Brunei for a three-year work attachment in 1982.

That year, he found another white marble horse by the same sculptor at a photo frame shop in Chinatown here. He bought it for $1,200 and his interest started to grow.

"I visited flea markets and antique shops every Sunday to look for items," says Mr Choo, who says he has spent more than $100,000 on his collection.

"I've never taken into account how much I spent as I'm not really bothered about the prices. But when the price is too high, I will try to bargain."

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While his expenditure is not an issue with his 58-year-old wife, Madam Toh Lay Peng, a secretary, she was concerned about cleanliness.

He says: "She told me they would collect a lot of dust. But there was really no choice, with the shape of these items."

He cleans all the pieces every three months with an anti-rust solution or oil and adds: "After a while, my wife left me alone as she understands that this is my interest."

They have a 33-year-old son and 28-year-old daughter, who live with them. He says: "When my children were young, they would count the items in my collection every day during the holidays. But they outgrew it and stopped counting."

Mr Choo loves horse-related items, but he is not interested in real horses.

He says: "Although I have taken rides on horses in Cameron Highlands, Malaysia, when I was young, I don't like riding as it's quite unstable."

He prefers to admire the strong and majestic horse in his sculptures instead and always looks out for a certain liveliness in his purchases.

He says: "When I buy the figurines, I look for life in the stature of the horse.

"To me, those that are still and motionless have no life and, therefore, have no value." He likes the vigour in pieces made by European and American sculptors.

He adds: "I also look at the way the horses stand. I like them best when they're standing on their hind legs."

One of his favourite sculptures is the Bronco Buster by American sculptor Frederic Remington, which he bought for a few thousand dollars in an old antique shop off Macpherson Road. A similar sculpture sits in United States President Barack Obama's Oval Office at the White House in Washington.

Well aware that some of the pieces in his collection are rare, Mr Choo says he may hold an exhibition or sell some of them after he retires.

He adds: "If someone offers me a good price, I will sell, but not all of them. My children may want to keep some of the precious ones and I probably cannot part with some that were gifts from friends.

"In the future, I might take up a course to study the art of making them. I wonder how sculptors can create such beautiful things or make the horse figurine balance on its hind legs. It would be interesting to find out."

He once tried to sculpt a horse out of wood, but did not succeed as he did not have the right tools and skills.

He says: "When I retire, I may take up porcelain- or china-making classes and try to make my own horse sculpture using Asian materials, but create them in the European style."

plow@sph.com.sg